Esports and the Scholar Gamer

Long time followers of the @ijohnpederson Home Game™ know bits and pieces of my history with online gaming. Back in 2005 I  picked up a copy of World of Warcraft, curious about what a bunch of interesting bloggers I was following found in it. It turned into a year long, 80 hour-per-week experience. The online was cool. The game was interesting. But it was the application of many, many others skills in that environment that turned it into one of the most transformative personal and professional experience of my life. Research. Leadership. Organization. Design. Communication. Negotiation. Data. The list goes on and on. Even to this day in 2018 I’ve found nothing that rivaled that community in terms of what I experienced learning online.

One of my long-time follows on Twitter is James O’Hagan. He, along with David Jakes, introduced me to Ditka’s pot roast nachos a decade ago, for which I will ever be grateful. Mostly because once you share an interesting meal you pay just a little more attention to the crazy stuff down the line. O’Hagan is good at karaoke. He once got suspended in recreational league rugby. Wherever he ends up he serves on the library community board(s). He’s doing graduate work around esports in education. Esports? Earlier this summer he mentioned the first face-to-face meeting of folks here in Wisconsin around the organization/creation of an esports conference. (I mistook this as an event where people would come and learn about esports. They were actually figuring out scheduling competitions of high school esports teams.)

I’m ahead of myself. Esports. Organized, competitive online gaming. Last year in Wisconsin there were around 16 high schools with teams loosely held together by a handful of educators volunteering their time as “coaches” for their districts. Yes, coaches. Yes, teams. There are even jerseys and, in one case, a purpose built “arena” for the school’s esports teams. Large, urban districts together with small, rural districts. Find 5 students interested in Rocket League and a few desktop machines and you are in. (Rocket League, Overwatch, and League of Legends are the three games most often used in competition here in Wisconsin at this time.)

Interesting things I learned.

  • The “market” for esports will soon eclipse that of the NHL in terms of size and revenue.
  • One coach mentioned having to negotiate practice time for his team with the basketball coach.
  • One athletic director told a story of their first meeting. “I work in a small, rural district where, as a teacher and athletic director, I get to know all of the students. When we hosted our first esports informational meeting, I was shocked at the number of faces that were new to me.”
  • Wisconsin students are earning college scholarships through esports.
  • Video game violence is far less of a concern among those that have done it than I anticipated.
  • While the hardware specs to support these games aren’t extraordinary, our mass-movement towards cheap Chromebooks are holding things back.

Here’s my most important take-away. James has this concept for what he calls a scholar gamer.

“Esports in schools, if implemented to the fullest potential, is a vehicle to something more than games.” 

My experience in World of Warcraft was much more than simply participating in an online game.

 “A Scholar Gamer is not just one who plays the games, but also performs data analysis, shoutcasts, coaches, responsibly  manages social media, organizes tournaments, is health conscious, and is a more tolerant, inclusive, and well-connected global citizen.”

I don’t know where I came to this next part…whether it’s part of one of James’ presentations or from a subsequent discussion about esports in education. In short, schools are well-equipped to address students needs at both edges of a bell curve. We know what it means to support students with learning disabilities as well as gifted and talented. (Apologies if my terms of art are completely out-of-date.) 

There are a bunch of students in the middle who have neither an IEP or are taking all of your AP courses. Their connection to school may be something like band and not as a three-sport athlete. They are your “middle” students that go unnoticed. Perhaps they are your introverts. These students…these are your gamers. They are finding what it means to be a part of something through the connections they are making online. They are negotiating the good, bad, and ugly of what it means to be in these communities. They are hesitant to ask the adults at school because of fear of misunderstanding, rejection, etc. These kids need us.

You also have these adults in your staff. They probably skew younger, perhaps in their 20’s and 30’s. They are busy establishing themselves as professionals and figuring out what it means to teach. They have this secret inside them that they don’t know how to express any more than the students do. Make them your champions.

I’ll finish by pointing to more stuff by James O’Hagan. He has a podcast titled The Academy of Esports.  Five simple talking points backed with some interesting links to support esports in education.

  1. Esports gives us a way to redefine athletic culture.
  2. Esports helps diversify opportunities for student participation.
  3. Esports promotes good physical and mental health.
  4. Esports increases career and collegiate scholarship pathways.
  5. Esports helps encourage play.

That's why.

Feel free to contact me if there's anything more I can do to explain things.



One of the preconditions of getting a vasectomy way way back many years ago was that I also get a 15" MacBook Pro. I've been through many. None as frustrating as my newest, a Late 2016 model. A few weeks back I experienced a presenter's nightmare when I went to hook up to the projector and had the option of USB A or DVI connectivity. (My machine has 4 USB C ports and a ton of dongles, but nothing that's going to get video from here to there.) So I bought 1 of every possible adapter and cord.

A week later, my D key starts acting up. Not cool.3 trips to the Apple Store later and she’s being sent in for a new “top piece” which includes a new keyboard, case, speakers, Touch Bar (not Touch ID) and battery. 

D = dumb. 

Taking Care of Ourselves at Work

Sarah passed this along today...

It’s okay to take care of ourselves at work. It is not only okay, it is necessary.

Taking care of ourselves at work means we deal with feelings appropriately; we take responsibility for ourselves. We detach, when detachment is called for. We set boundaries, when we need to do that.

We negotiate conflicts; we try to separate our issues from the other person’s issues, and we don’t expect perfection from ourselves or others.

We let go of our need to control that which we cannot control. Instead, we strive for peace and manageability, owning our power to be who we are and to take care of ourselves.

We do not tolerate abuse, nor do we abuse or mistreat anyone else. We work at letting go of our fear and developing appropriate confidence. We try to learn from our mistakes, but we forgive ourselves when we make them.

We try to not set ourselves up by taking on work that couldn’t possibly work out, or work that isn’t right for us. If we find ourselves in one of those circumstances, we address the issue responsibly.

We figure out what our responsibilities are, and we generally stick to those, unless another agreement is made. We leave room for great days, and not-so-great days.

We are gentle and loving with people whenever possible, but we are assertive and firm when that is called for. We accept our strengths and build on them. We accept or weaknesses and limitations, including the limitations of our power.

We strive to stop trying to control and change what is not our business to change. We focus on what is our responsibility and what we can change.

We set reasonable goals. We take ourselves into account. We strive for balance.

Sometimes, we give ourselves a good gripe session to let it all out, but we do that appropriately, in a way meant to take care of ourselves and release our feelings, not to sabotage ourselves. We strive to voice malicious gossip and other self-defeating behaviors.

We voice compassion, strive for cooperation and a loving spirit. We understand that we may like some people we work with and dislike others, but strive to find harmony and balance with everyone. We do not deny how we feel about a certain person, but we strive to maintain good working relationships wherever possible.

When we don’t know, we say we don’t know. When we need help, we ask for it directly. When panic sets in, we address the panic as a separate issue and try not to let our work and behavior be controlled by panic.

We strive to take responsible care of ourselves by appropriately asking for what we need at work, while not neglecting ourselves.

If we are part of a team, we strive for healthy teamwork as an opportunity to learn how to work in cooperation with others.

If something gets or feels crazy, if we find ourselves working with a person who is addicted or has some kind of dysfunction that is troublesome, we do not make ourselves crazier by denying the problem. We accept it and strive in peace to figure out what we need to do to take care of ourselves.

We let go of our need to be martyrs or rescuers at work. We know we do not have to stay in situations that make us miserable. Instead of sabotaging a system or ourselves, we plan a positive solution, understanding we nee to take responsibility for ourselves along the way.

We remove ourselves as victims, and we work at believing we deserve the best. We practice acceptance, gratitude, and faith.

One day at a time, we strive to enjoy what is good, solve the problems the are ours to solve, and give the gift of ourselves at work.

Seth Godin + Cluetrain Mashup

The system we grew up with is a mess. It’s falling apart at the seams and a lot of people I care about are in pain because the things we thought would work, don’t. Every day I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold it back. They have become victims, pawns in a senseless system that uses them up and undervalues them. Scared.

It’s about a choice and it’s about our lives. This choice shouldn’t require us to quit our jobs, though it challenges us to rethink how we do our job.

It’s time to stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating something that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for us and start doing things that change people and organizations. Then, and only then, will we have achieved our potential.

For hundreds of years, we have been seduced, scammed and brainwashed into fitting in, following instructions and exchanging a day’s work for a day’s pay. That era has come to an end, and just in time.

We have brilliance in us, our contribution is valuable, and what we create is important. Only we can do it, and we must. I’m hoping we not only chose to stand up, but also choose to make a difference.

A powerful conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, organizations are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

These organizations are conversations. Their people communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

Most organizations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and set of talking points. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder people have little respect for organizations unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will organizations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to users.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.

While many such people already work for organizations today, most organizations ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of people literally too smart to buy it.

However, people are getting hyperlinked even as markets are. Organizations need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to get out of the way so networked people can converse directly with networked organizations.

Corporate firewalls have kept smart people in and smart organizations out. It’s going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation our organization has ever engaged in.